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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Florida draws against Georgia 1-1

In Becky Burleigh’s final SEC game, Florida grabs early equalizer

<p>Florida striker Beata Olsson dribbles past a defender Feb. 20 against College of Charleston. The Swedish international scored an early equalizer Monday.</p>

Florida striker Beata Olsson dribbles past a defender Feb. 20 against College of Charleston. The Swedish international scored an early equalizer Monday.

In a rare mistake, captain Carina Baltrip-Reyes failed to win an aerial duel when contested by a Georgia forward. She jumped into the air and made contact with the ball but not enough for the ball to be sent away from danger. The Florida fans who made the trip up I-75 gasped. 

In Becky Burleigh’s final game against SEC competition, Florida drew against Georgia 1-1 in Atlanta, a repeat of when teams met in Gainesville in September. 

The result sparked déjà vu for the Gators. The mishap eventually led to a one-on-one for Georgia’s Haley Sorrel, who scored a game-clinching goal in the final 30 seconds against Florida in 2019. 

This time, she slipped. Goalkeeper Suzi Espinoza and the rest of Florida cheered.

But the match didn’t get off to the start Florida wanted. Less than five minutes after the official blew the opening whistle, Georgia opened scoring through a quick deflected goal.

Florida didn’t need to worry for too much longer. For the sixth time in the spring, Beata Olsson put the Gators on the board.

The Swedish national slotted the ball past the keeper and put her team back in the game in the 16’ — the same day she was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.

About midway through the first half, Florida changed in the same way it did in the second half against North Florida Wednesday. Cameron Hall’s substitution for Syd Kennedy signaled to the rest of the squad the new change.

Due to the 3v2 advantage that Georgia had in midfield with its own variation of the 3-5-2, Burleigh decided to pull the trigger even earlier Sunday. The change from the 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 made it necessary for both sides to win their individual battles since they were occupying so many of the same spaces on the field.

The nature of the game completely changed with the switch. Prior to the change in the 27’, Georgia had seven shots. After Florida moved more players into midfield, Georgia only shot the ball once the rest of the half. 

In the second half, Florida dictated the tempo and toned down the frantic pace. In the second period, both sides fired just three shots. 

Florida’s biggest risk-reward player Ava Kuyken entered the midfield at halftime and played in a different role to her usual place in the machine. After the formation switch in the midweek match, the English national didn’t play in the game, so this was her first time in the role. 

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When Kuyken flourished, Florida created chances at a rate it hasn’t replicated in other matches this season.

She didn’t play her usual, more advanced role and sat back Sunday. Playing a more box-to-box role limited her ability to play in between the lines, but she contributed a beautiful, chipped pass over Georgia’s backline that resulted in a Gators’ chance.

Despite a big goodbye next week, one Gator made their final appearance in a blue and orange uniform Sunday. Deanne Rose will join the Canadian national team for two friendlies in the UK against Wales and England. 

In her last game for Florida, the 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year started at right midfield and also played left wing back. 

Although Florida looked improved in the second 45, Georgia nearly grabbed the winner when a scramble in the box led to the ball hitting the woodwork, not once, but twice.

With the game at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the match went into overtime. 

In the two extra periods, neither side looked as if it was going to break the deadlock. There were only three shots between them as neither wanted to give up the golden goal..

Florida’s next and final match of the spring will be April 3 as it heads down to Coral Gables to play Miami at noon.

Contact Myles Herbert at and follow him on Twitter @myles_herbert

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